Demolishing Democracy making waves in Zambia

By Kundai Marunya

After an electric premier that got the audience talking early this month, the Zambian version of Demolishing Democracy returned for another run at Lusaka Playhouse last night.

Directed by Isaac Kalumba with a cast of Mutale Macholwa, Alice Paxina Ngwane, Kethwayo Yezi and Joash Ngóna, the play focuses on the problem of human settlement leading to illegal settlements, which in many cases also result in demolitions.

It came at a right time in Zambian history, when there seems to be contention over Article 269 of the final draft constitution, which relates to vesting of land in the President.

The original play was written and directed by renowned local theatre practitioner Tafadzwa Muzondo with NAMA award winning actor Tafadzwa Hananda playing a lead role alongside a cream of internationally acclaimed performers including award-wining star Everson Ndlovu, veteran actor Gibson Sarari, vibrant Samantha Ndlovu, energetic Charlotte Munyayi, versatile Brezhnev Guveya and Charles Biniweri.

The Zimbabwean version is a depiction of the 2005’s Operation Murambatsvina in which the Mugabe regime demolished homes and businesses in what was claimed to be illegal settlements and black market areas resulting in thousands falling homeless and losing millions of dollars’ worth of property.

Muzondo who travelled to Zambia and was pleased with the premier said, “I am not going to attend the re-run, it would mean I will have to relocate to Zambia because the play is going to be staged in different parts of the country.”

Although it is the Zimbabwe situation that inspired the play, it remains relevant to the Zambian situation as there are many contentious issues regarding land in the neighboring country.

Other than the contention with regard to the vestment of land in the head of state, Parliament and traditional rulers, there is also the dual land tenure system of customary and state land.

“I am happy with what the Zambians did in terms of customizing the play to their situation because the problem of human settlement, as much it is universal, differs with each country,” said Muzondo.

Meanwhile, the play has created a theatre exchange platform for practitioners from the two countries.

“We are going to have a Zimbabwe Zambia Theatre Exchange which is a unique experience.

“The play will be staged by a Zimbabwean cast and a Zambian cast then a discussion on the similarities and differences of the issues and situations portrayed will ensue after the play,” said Muzondo.

“The problem of human settlement leading to illegal settlement is a global problem hence it is in this sense that the play is aimed at interrogating the problem and stimulating discussions towards finding lasting solutions that do not compromise people’s rights.”

The performances are deliberately scheduled for the week of 21 – 25 September in commemoration of International Day of Peace (21 September) projecting how the problem of human settlement is a threat to peace as evidenced by cases of violent resistance to demolitions and evictions in some areas.